France 2016 Remembered Part1
Getting There

Guy on the St Malo Ferry There is something really rather decadent about nipping away to spend all your hard saved cash, or rather cash that you haven't actually saved but you're sure the bank will understand, and living like you are a member of the privileged classes with no end to your wealth and a sense of self importance that has probably been part of the British psyche since the days of the Emperor Septimius Severus. (the first black emperor of Rome who was based in York thereby giving Britain its first excuse for an over inflated opinion of itself.) Most people refer to this part of their lives as holidays. Though some treat it as though they have slipped back into a previous incarnation and are not only the rightful heirs to the decadence of ancient Rome but are actually part of Septimius' immediate family and expect to be treated like living gods. We are not like that.

It has become something of a tradition now for my wife and I to take her aged P to Gaul ... erm I mean France. It is a week or two or three of eating too much, drinking too much and using all the wrong verb tenses in as many restaurants, local markets, tourist attractions as possible and generally lording it over everyone. It has also become an opportunity to train for my next big race. This is after all supposed to be a running blogg. However, with my ankle still recovering from my thunder run fall there is every prospect of this training trip being focused a little too much on the eating and drinking. Septimius would be proud of me.

We Need To Talk About Erik

 A short story, based, rather loosely it has to be said on some actual things that actually happened one rainy Bank Holiday weekend in Whitby.

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Unlike the days of ancient Rome there are several ways to get to France. You can fly. This is not an option when you are planning to spend 2 weeks camping in one of the largest tents that you have ever seen that takes 3 hours to put up and 3 hours to take down. The excess baggage would cost as much as the holiday. The tent is a bone of contention. It is largely the kitchen stand, carpet, fairy lights and other incidental luxuries that take the time in putting up the tent. My wife has pointed out that Septimius would not have traveled without all these little extras. What is the point of frugal imperialism? I have pointed out, in reply, that he would have had a small army of slaves and indeed an actual army to help put the damn thing up and have we got any more rock pegs? This ground is bleeding hard!

We remain divided on the future of the tent.

Other ways of getting to France? There is the Euro Tunnel or the Dover to Calais car ferries. Both involve getting round London on the M25. Whilst this will get you safely to France with your f*ck off big tent, it lacks a certain sense of style worthy of starting off such a holiday. After all you wouldn't catch a self respecting high ranking Romano Britain doing steerage on a cheap trireme (Roman Ship) before high tailing it to Gaul for the wine, cheese and to watch a couple of Asterix like figures beat 7 shades of excrementum out of the lions and Christians. So why would we?

And that is where the St Malo Ferry comes in. Firstly the St Malo Ferry runs from Portsmouth. This has 2 advantages. It is easier to pick up the aged P who lives on Vectis (Roman name for the Isle of Wight) and it means you don't have to go anywhere near the stinking hole that is Londinium.

Secondly, the St Malo Ferry is run by Brittany Ferries. This means that you are already in France the moment you set foot on it and as everyone knows France is in almost every respect better than the U. K. (Public toilettes and andouillette* are the 2 major ways in which Britain wins out over France. Toilets because we clean ours and andouillette because it is never served in the U. K. unless at private parties attended only by depraved members of parliament who have D notices placed on their memoirs and are quickly promoted up stairs to the House of Lords and out of office the moment their attendance at such parties comes to the attention of any reasonably highly ranked official in the Ministry for Keeping Names Out of the Papers.)

The most noticeable way that French living significantly wins over Gross British living is food. In a similar way that Roman food won over the ancient British diet of berries, dried fish and reindeer hooves. The St Malo's self service restaurant puts most British restaurants to shame, which is not bad for what is effectively a service station at sea. Their restaurant is simply amazing.

You arrive and are shown to your seat where the waiter takes your order for your plat principle and the wine and then you help yourself to the first course buffet. (Now I am aware that in ancient Rome there would be none of this getting up and serving yourself. But since the abolition of slavery waiter service has come at a premium so some compromise is inevitable.) I could say you have the option of the sea food starters, or the salads or the charcuterie. But you don't. You can mix and match and go back for seconds. You can in theory keep going back and refilling plate after plate. This is regarded as a bit gluttonous, after all you are in France now, not anywhere so uncouth as ancient Rome. If you have too many trips to the starter buffet the waiter will politely nip in with your main course just as you are thinking of loading up your 3rd or 4th plate of starters. You tend to get the hint after that. Things have changed since Septimius' day and compromise is no longer a dirty word.

The Darkest Hour

 A private is on sentry duty the night before embarkation to the docks in preparation for D-Day. He is frightened, trying not to think about what lies ahead of him. He only has 2 cigarettes to see him through the night.

Then a stranger comes out of the darkness ...

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For wine we usually have the Pomerol. This is a fine Bordeaux wine and comes from an area just outside St Emilion. This will mean something to wine buffs and will be returned to in later bloggs. Pomerol is very much a sipping wine, but being Brits out to show Europe a thing or two about our claim to the heritage of Rome we sip it very liberally and are usually on our second bottle before the mains arrive.

The main courses are as you would expect in any reasonable restaurant in France itself. There are several options usually involving some form of meat, beautifully presented, in a creamy sauce with a touch of 'Je ne sais quoi' to it take to another level. There is of course a vegetarian option. Vegetable ravioli, beautifully presented, in a sauce that contains some kind of meat and a little 'Je ne sais quoi' that takes it to another level.

Then its back to the buffet for the desserts. An astounding array of things containing cream, cake, chocolate, broken biscuit, in varying proportions none of which look like anything you've ever seen before, apart from the one that looks like lemon meringue pie. Of course you have to try them all, in small slices. At the last minute, and very much against your better judgement, you include an ever so thin slice of the one that looks like lemon meringue pie.

For the Love of George

 "They'll be painting the park fence soon. It could do with a new coat. They do it every now and then."

The woman from the reproduction antiques shop contemplates the state of the state of the park fencing opposite.

Well there isn’t much else to do.

Until one day George walks in to look at a reproduction Queen Ann desk.

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By now the lingering disapproving eye of the waiter has pricked your conscience and it has dawned on you that you are not the son of Septimus and this is not ancient Rome. You are merely behaving like a British pig. You sneak back to your seat and offer a taste of each pudding to those around you as though this was always the plan and you had no intention of eating the whole lot yourself. Of course not. Then you drop the waiter a 'what do you take me for ' look and carry on. After a series of surprising, unique and largely delightful mouthfuls of amazing gateau, you finally take a mouthful of the one that looks like lemon meringue pie. It is lemon meringue pie.

You finish the whole thing off with a 3rd bottle of Pomerol and the cheese course before staggering off to your cabin and a broken nights sleep. Now that is how any self respecting Romano Britain would have started a trip to ancient Gaul. . . . .

As we wait in the queue at Portsmouth Ferry Port for the incoming ferry to off load, I daydream of the delightful voyage that lies ahead of us and my mouth waters involuntarily.

There is something strange about the faces of those disembarking and preparing for their long journeys home. It is something more than the dreary look of people who have made the fatal mistake of Choosing a 10 hour daytime voyage on a ship with one of the best restaurants and finest wine cellars afloat, before having to make the 6 hour car journey back home with screaming kids on bumpy British roads, through the night and the incessant British drizzle. The pale faces with a green tinge tell us something that the whether report would have warned us of if we'd bothered to listen to it. The crossing is going to be rough. Very rough!

That will mean 3 things.
1. The there will be no queue for the restaurant. Positive.
2. We will have to get the first sitting while the ship is in calmer waters or better still, still in the harbour. Not so positive.
3. There will be a queue for the vomitarium when we hit the rough seas in mid channel. Somewhat negative.

So, how did the Roman Empire fall again?

* Andouette is a chitterling sausage - made from intestines that have been stuffed inside intestines, which are stuffed inside intestines. As far as I can tell from the taste and smell, none of the intestines have actually been washed. It is in effect a poo sausage.

The Gift - A Ghost Story for Christmas
by Guy Jones

 On the top floor of an old Victorian house, that should be empty, there is a light on. A low light. A candle light.

And next to the light, just visible ... or was it my ... a figure ... and was it ... was she looking straight at me?

She? Yes, it was a girl. Check it out

Oh My Nottz is a HotHouse Theatre production. Co. No. 6505843 Charity No. 1154523. Tel 07963020259 email website